Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
Post Reply
Topic Author
jkushne1
Posts: 98
Joined: Sun Nov 23, 2014 9:20 pm

Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by jkushne1 »

My wife and I are looking to add an outdoor living space and are just in the early stages of getting design ideas/quotes for construction to begin ~1year from now. We live on ~0.5 acre lot. Due to good financially planning, we do have some money to spend and really make it our own but at the same time don't want to overspend (50k? 75k 100k?...not sure general idea how much it'll cost). Enjoyment is much more important to us than appreciation or increase in property value. We live in Pennsylvania so we probably would not use it year round. We also have no interest in a pool. For those who have gone through the process, I'm curious your thoughts and recommendations to some of these questions, or any other suggestions in general?

-Patio vs Decking (Trex?): wife is leaning towards patio but still undecided...or even a combination
-Maintenance: we're willing to spend more up front to minimize routine maintenance down the line. Any suggestion for materials or tricks to keep annual maintenance to a minimum?
-Pavilion or not: these look impressive and provide coverage from the sun but are they worth the extra cost and hassle. For those that do have them, would you do it again?
-Fire pit vs fireplace....and direct gas line, propane or wood burning
-Outdoor Kitchen: is it worth it to have an outdoor kitchen vs just an impressive grill. If yes to outdoor kitchen, what are your most/least used features...counter space, mini fridge, etc... Any specific grill recommendations...I've heard the EVO flat top grills are really nice.
-Lighting ideas
-Drainage: we have significant drainage issues in the backyard (lots of the neighborhood does) so this is what prompted the backyard renovation to begin with. Any best systems to address this?

Any other suggestions/ideas would be appreciated
Mr. Rumples
Posts: 1148
Joined: Sun Aug 25, 2019 7:16 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by Mr. Rumples »

Patio or deck is a personal preference; a patio IMHO is less maintenance and critters don't take up residence under it.

But first, the drainage issues have to be addressed if they affect the location. "Significant" can mean standing water for a day or a week, so its unclear what is meant. If full blown landscaping is done, the a professional can install a "rain garden."

I live in an area of shrink swell soil with hardpan underneath. I'm at the top of the hill, so its not too much of an issue as long I keep on top of the re-pointing, but homes further down have issues. I'd see if the county has a map of soil to see what you are starting off with. In VA, most counties have done this for residential lots since the building code requires them to specify which lots need gutters for drainage and which don't.

https://vaswcd.org/rain-garden

(On a personal note, this winter I tackled a drainage issue on a spot on my property which has hardpan. I borrowed by neighbor's hammer drill and with a 23" masonry bit broke through it digging every 8" apart. Worked well. Hence, it helps to know why drainage is an issue. In a nearby county, an area was having drainage issues...turned out it was a highway drain down the road which was totally blocked.)
2Scoops
Posts: 69
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2020 7:01 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by 2Scoops »

We added our outdoor space about 3 years ago. Our goals were to maximize the time spent outside even in less than ideal weather. We went with a screened porch (trex base, fireplace, tv, vaulted ceiling,etc) and a smaller patio to hold the grills and a chair or two.

We initially were going with a large patio but started to think about the full sun the backyard gets during the summer, the periods of extended rain, and bugs. We spend time out there nearly every day during the non-winter months.

We have recessed lighting in the ceiling and also rope lighting around the perimeter.

I'd be happy to send you pics or the rendering if you PM me. We absolutely love the space and wish we had done it sooner.
WhyNotUs
Posts: 1935
Joined: Sun Apr 14, 2013 11:38 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by WhyNotUs »

jkushne1 wrote: Sat Apr 03, 2021 5:16 am

-Patio vs Decking (Trex?): wife is leaning towards patio but still undecided...or even a combination
I like the look of patio pavers if you do not need to be off of the ground. It if needs to be above ground trex over pressure treated works well.
Pavestone has some nice looking options. In part it depends on that style of your home, a deck would be a better look for some styles


-Maintenance: we're willing to spend more up front to minimize routine maintenance down the line. Any suggestion for materials or tricks to keep annual maintenance to a minimum?

Perennials, ornamental grasses, bushes over annuals, deciduous trees, turf. Mini-clover can be an alternative to turf.

-Pavilion or not: these look impressive and provide coverage from the sun but are they worth the extra cost and hassle. For those that do have them, would you do it again?

We have a big electric awning from Sunsetter purchased through Costco. It is more than 10 years old, operates flawlessly with no maintenance other than putting a cover on it for the winter. When we want sun we have sun and when we want shade we have shade. Can't use it on windy days though.

-Fire pit vs fireplace....and direct gas line, propane or wood burning

If low maintenance is your goal, gas fire pit is the easiest

-Outdoor Kitchen: is it worth it to have an outdoor kitchen vs just an impressive grill. If yes to outdoor kitchen, what are your most/least used features...counter space, mini fridge, etc... Any specific grill recommendations...I've heard the EVO flat top grills are really nice.
Maybe for someone who lives outside year round, but for people with four seasons I think outdoor kitchens are an expensive ego toy. How often are they really going to get used. Probably only makes sense with a structure above it. Higher maintenance for kitchen

-Lighting ideas

The retractable awnings offer attached lighting that works. We have a couple solar lights.

-Drainage: we have significant drainage issues in the backyard (lots of the neighborhood does) so this is what prompted the backyard renovation to begin with. Any best systems to address this?

That is best answered first and by someone with the ability to test your soils, see the slope, and the footer drainage for your home. Expect a good chunk of your budget to go here depending on what they learn.

Any other suggestions/ideas would be appreciated
I own the next hot stock- VTSAX
Flashes1
Posts: 1065
Joined: Wed May 07, 2008 7:43 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by Flashes1 »

My personal prefences:

1. Poured Concrete patio: (i) looks fabulous, (ii) almost maintenance free (I put a finish on it ever 3 years), (iii) there's no sand to get on your feet that you have with pavers.

2. Fireplace: I would do the big fireplace ensemble with a 7-8' chimney. We did a natural gas pit but I'm not a huge fan - and maybe it's the gas insert my landscaper used but the gas makes a relatively loud sound when I crank it up and the el cheapo in me feels uneasy knowing I'm paying for the natural gas.

3. Lighting: landscaping lights in ground look great - put them on a timer. They are black and are about 12 inches high.

4. Make sure you have plenty of shaded areas in times you will be out there the most. We planted several larger trees around the perimeter - and if I didn't also have a screened-in-porch that's always shaded, I would seriously consider putting a covered roof over part of my patio. Edit: the OP called this a Pavilion - and yes I WOULDN'T do an outdoor space that didn't have a shaded area like a Pavilion. In PA (and where I live) the sun is flipping hot in June - August until about 8:30 - no way can you sit comfortably in the direct sun when it's +85 degrees with high humidity. If you do it right, the pavilion will look awesome, too. Plus, I love sitting out under my porch roof during a hard summer rain storm.

5. Outdoor kitchens are awesome. We didn't do it for money reasons, but the grills built-into natural stone bars look cool. Our designer drew out a granite bar right next to the grilling area that could seat 3-4 high top chairs. Given all the weight of the kitchen they need to place about 4' of stone aggregate under the poured concrete patio or it will crack over time.

6. We installed a putting green about 30 feet in length with three holes. Looks cool.

7. Recommend running an electrical outlet out there so you can plug in a TV to watch the big game/movie with your kids.

8. Put a couple speakers out there run by a Sonos player. It's fun to sit on your patio and listen to radio stations in places in Ethiopia or Sweden all run by your phone over the Sonos.

9. I think we spent $40k-$50k. Money well spent.
Nowizard
Posts: 3273
Joined: Tue Oct 23, 2007 5:33 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by Nowizard »

So many possible decisions. With a major project such as you seem to be suggesting, use of a design specialist in addition to a contractor would be appropriate. As for patio or Trex, our experience was that the patio developed cracks over a period of about five years. We installed a Trex deck over it that worked well. An aside on that is that Trex types can be edge to edge or with slight separation between boards. The latter is preferable for blowing out leaves beneath it and avoids slight "heaving" of boards if the underside of the deck is not secured to the underlying concrete or to posts inserted in the ground.

Tim
westie
Posts: 551
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:00 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by westie »

sounds like the backyard is damp, could be a big draw for mosquitoes at dusk. I'd have electric and a gas line run to whatever location you choose. Maybe screen off a portion of it? A nice grill would be enough for me but they make some beautiful outdoor kitchens $$$$.
User avatar
Bogle7
Posts: 990
Joined: Fri May 11, 2018 9:33 am
Location: Mountain state

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by Bogle7 »

0. After you gather all your ideas into a document along with images, hire a designer. They are way better at this than you.

1. We have a concrete patio and a paver patio. Our next door neighbors have a ceramic tile patio.
a. The most important factor in any patio is ground prep. The minimum is compacted stone (sometimes 2 sizes) and then [maybe] a layer of compacted sand.
b. Of the 3 patios, I prefer the ceramic tile one. My neighbors have https://www.belgard.com/products/porcelain-pavers The tiles are smoother, easier on the [bare] feet. The polymeric sand in the "grout lines" works well.
c. Second best are our 7-year-old concrete pavers patio with polymeric sand. OK on the feet. We have had zero movement in a 2-3 foot frost area.
d. The concrete one is 10 years old and suffers from frost heaves due to cheap builder prep. Also, hardest on the feet. Not a fan.

2. In our previous house we had a wooden deck. I love redwood. It does require maintenance. Easy on the feet.

3. Lighting. Lots of low-voltage on timers. Just make that any lights are not cemented in. With LEDs lasting "forever", contractors are being lazy. We have a dead one and I am going to have to remove and re-install a bunch of cemented stone.

4. Patio heater(s) using natural gas. We put a propane-powered model on our front patio and it extended the season by a few months.

5. Umbrellas work well. Sunbrella (https://www.sunbrella.com) is the only fabric to consider. Get ones with a heavy weighted base so you can reposition them.

6. Furniture covers for the Winter will extend the life of your Sunbrella fabric furniture.

7. Landscaping to soften the space. I am a fan of boxwoods for their size and easy maintenance.

8. A smaller space is better than a too large space. You want an intimate welcoming feel.

9. If you get a gas grill, then make sure you spend the money for plenty of BTUs. Gas grills are usually weak compared with wood.
Last edited by Bogle7 on Sat Apr 03, 2021 1:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Old fart who does three index funds, baby.
stan1
Posts: 9920
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by stan1 »

All other things equal, we'd prefer a covered patio for outdoor dining to comfortably seat the number of guests we expect plus an open air seating area with gas fire pit for use in evenings. If we had a walkout basement the deck becomes a more likely design element. Can get a covered patio for less cost than a "pavilion". Would keep the dining area close to the kitchen for convenience (and makes it more likely to be used I think).

Wood burning masonry/concrete pizza ovens are popular right now if you want something a little special (and would use it).
GT99
Posts: 432
Joined: Wed Jun 20, 2018 5:26 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by GT99 »

There are lots of online design services that can help - here is one I found quickly but there are several: https://tillydesign.com/

We recently used Brick & Batten to do a design of the front of our house and were happy, but I'm not sure they do landscapes.

I'm planning on adding an outdoor kitchen soon, so I'm following this thread. We have a deck that steps down 3 feet to a patio. Right now my plan is to put a big stone structure between the deck and patio with a fireplace facing out to the patio, and a pizza oven above it facing in to the deck. It would then also have a place for my Big Green Egg, a couple burners, and potentially a gas grill (all facing in to the deck). If I get around to putting a design together soon, I'll share it here to get input.
Fat Tails
Posts: 134
Joined: Wed Oct 30, 2019 12:47 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by Fat Tails »

If you go with wood-burning, get a fireplace, which will draw the smoke up via its chimney. With a wood fire pit, somebody around it will get smoke.
“It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” ― Yogi Berra
teCh0010
Posts: 212
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2011 11:20 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by teCh0010 »

I got quotes for the following :

Demo and remove existing 22 x 30 patio
Pour new patio (washed aggregate) with engineered footings for porch and fireplace
Construct 20 x 20 porch (attached to house on one side) with clear pine stained ceiling and cedar posts
Construct brick wood burning fireplace
Electrical : Fan, 4 x Can Lights, string lights, TV, 240v ceramic heaters
Drainage : Take gutter underground, add trench drain between patio and pool

Cost 60k including permits and engineering fees required for footing drawings.
User avatar
gr7070
Posts: 1758
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:39 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by gr7070 »

Use natural stonework.
ckelly78z
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:51 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by ckelly78z »

One thing to consider for your own personal enjoyment in the off season (cold temperatures) is installing a spa/hot tub. We bought a new Hot Springs spa 25 years ago, and still enjoy the same spa every Fall/Winter. We have only had to replace the cover twice, and the pump once...one of the best comfort expenses we have ever bought.
treesinthewind
Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2020 9:35 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by treesinthewind »

ckelly78z wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:38 am One thing to consider for your own personal enjoyment in the off season (cold temperatures) is installing a spa/hot tub. We bought a new Hot Springs spa 25 years ago, and still enjoy the same spa every Fall/Winter. We have only had to replace the cover twice, and the pump once...one of the best comfort expenses we have ever bought.
We've been considering doing this, but the description of the maintenance in other boglehead threads has me thinking twice about it. What is the weekly/monthly time commitment for a hot tub?
User avatar
gr7070
Posts: 1758
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2011 10:39 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by gr7070 »

treesinthewind wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:45 am
ckelly78z wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:38 am One thing to consider for your own personal enjoyment in the off season (cold temperatures) is installing a spa/hot tub. We bought a new Hot Springs spa 25 years ago, and still enjoy the same spa every Fall/Winter. We have only had to replace the cover twice, and the pump once...one of the best comfort expenses we have ever bought.
We've been considering doing this, but the description of the maintenance in other boglehead threads has me thinking twice about it. What is the weekly/monthly time commitment for a hot tub?
I was definitely concerned with all (negative) things hot tub related.

The water maintenance isn't that hard or time consuming, though you do need to do it multiple times a week, including filter.

Maintenance on the tub, initial cost, utilities cost, significant usage decrease, general issues, tub disposal. All were a bit concerning.

I just bought a blow up hot tub instead. Very happy with it. Very pleased with everything, including that I don't have to care much about longevity of the tub. It's so, so much cheaper, though they aren't exactly cheap.

I don't really see the downside to the blow ups. Lastly, if we decide to get a big boy hot tub down the road I won't care about the cost of the blow up.
User avatar
willthrill81
Posts: 24103
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2017 3:17 pm
Location: USA

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by willthrill81 »

Flashes1 wrote: Sat Apr 03, 2021 8:55 am My personal prefences:

1. Poured Concrete patio: (i) looks fabulous, (ii) almost maintenance free (I put a finish on it ever 3 years), (iii) there's no sand to get on your feet that you have with pavers.

2. Fireplace: I would do the big fireplace ensemble with a 7-8' chimney. We did a natural gas pit but I'm not a huge fan - and maybe it's the gas insert my landscaper used but the gas makes a relatively loud sound when I crank it up and the el cheapo in me feels uneasy knowing I'm paying for the natural gas.

3. Lighting: landscaping lights in ground look great - put them on a timer. They are black and are about 12 inches high.

4. Make sure you have plenty of shaded areas in times you will be out there the most. We planted several larger trees around the perimeter - and if I didn't also have a screened-in-porch that's always shaded, I would seriously consider putting a covered roof over part of my patio. Edit: the OP called this a Pavilion - and yes I WOULDN'T do an outdoor space that didn't have a shaded area like a Pavilion. In PA (and where I live) the sun is flipping hot in June - August until about 8:30 - no way can you sit comfortably in the direct sun when it's +85 degrees with high humidity. If you do it right, the pavilion will look awesome, too. Plus, I love sitting out under my porch roof during a hard summer rain storm.

5. Outdoor kitchens are awesome. We didn't do it for money reasons, but the grills built-into natural stone bars look cool. Our designer drew out a granite bar right next to the grilling area that could seat 3-4 high top chairs. Given all the weight of the kitchen they need to place about 4' of stone aggregate under the poured concrete patio or it will crack over time.

6. We installed a putting green about 30 feet in length with three holes. Looks cool.

7. Recommend running an electrical outlet out there so you can plug in a TV to watch the big game/movie with your kids.

8. Put a couple speakers out there run by a Sonos player. It's fun to sit on your patio and listen to radio stations in places in Ethiopia or Sweden all run by your phone over the Sonos.

9. I think we spent $40k-$50k. Money well spent.
I agree with all of your recommendations, especially regarding the value of shade. We didn't use our patio much until we put a cover over it because the afternoon sun would just cook you. And if the big stationary fireplace is too costly, a stainless steel fire pit is a much less costly alternative. We've had a Solo Stove with a spark arrestor for two years now and love it; the pops and crackles of fire from wood are so much better than the silence of gas, IMHO.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings
treesinthewind
Posts: 37
Joined: Tue Mar 31, 2020 9:35 am

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by treesinthewind »

gr7070 wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:17 am
I just bought a blow up hot tub instead. Very happy with it. Very pleased with everything, including that I don't have to care much about longevity of the tub. It's so, so much cheaper, though they aren't exactly cheap.

I don't really see the downside to the blow ups. Lastly, if we decide to get a big boy hot tub down the road I won't care about the cost of the blow up.
I've been thinking about this as well! Seems like a relatively risk-free option. Thanks for the recommendation.
elle
Posts: 52
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:13 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by elle »

Following this thread too. We have an old crumbling parking pad in our back yard that could use a major overhaul, including moving a 1.5-2 ft retaining wall moved 3 feet back. Ideally, we are thinking a pavilion and a basic kitchen - grill, green egg, fridge. No sink.

At what point/project size do you suggest hiring a landscape designer?

First yard project-yard work on any previous houses were done with our in house workers (aka me).
tdm757
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Feb 06, 2020 11:10 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by tdm757 »

treesinthewind wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 8:36 am
gr7070 wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 9:17 am
I just bought a blow up hot tub instead. Very happy with it. Very pleased with everything, including that I don't have to care much about longevity of the tub. It's so, so much cheaper, though they aren't exactly cheap.

I don't really see the downside to the blow ups. Lastly, if we decide to get a big boy hot tub down the road I won't care about the cost of the blow up.
I've been thinking about this as well! Seems like a relatively risk-free option. Thanks for the recommendation.

I pay a company to empty, clean and fill my hot tub twice a year. About $300 each time. The chemicals are a couple times a week, if you are particular. Not much into adding tasks to my life, so I would say hot tubs are pretty low key.
Shalom Aleichem
Posts: 109
Joined: Tue Mar 16, 2021 8:55 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by Shalom Aleichem »

Fire pit. Gas. No Brainer. You’ll use it if it’s easy to use and less if it’s going to require work. I love the outdoor grill and don’t feel the need for anything fancier. I’m in Los Angeles and I love the mister for when it gets hot. Outdoor movie projector.
ondarvr
Posts: 71
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2020 6:03 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by ondarvr »

I've done couple similar projects in the last 15 years.

I love a covered area when walking out of the house, it makes it usable all year, even with socks or bare feet in the winter. I can go out no matter what the weather is like and enjoy it.

If you have a hot tub, put it near the house so it's easy to get to in any weather too. My wife really doesn't like walking through a foot of snow to get our current one.

As for composite decking or a poured patio, it depends on what you want to look at, and possibly how damp your yard actually is.

I put in a combination of the two at my last place, after 12 years neither one required more than a pressure washing to look great again. I don't like pavers due to the higher maintenance and the sand. They can look good though.

I didn't design my current deck, but I'm making improvements. There's no covered area near the house, you need to walk about 15' to get to it, this makes it less useful. The hot tub is also further from the house, it's not a big hassle, but it gets used a little less because of it.

The covered area is mostly a cooking space, not an outdoor kitchen though, just a gridle and a propone two burner stove top.

The outdoor kitchen seems to be more of bragging right than an actual frequently used item, but some people do use them a lot. I don't, so my set up is just the basics.

The covered cooking area isn't big enough to also have much seating, so right now I have a large umbrella. I'm trying to figure out a more permanent cover for the space and still have it fit in with the current roof line.

I don't have an outdoor fire pit of any kind, although I do think about it frequently. The problem is that it's already hot in the summer, plus it's not dark until 9:30 or so, too late for an aging couple to really enjoy it. And it's too cold in the winter to spend much time out there.

My last place didn't need a screened in area, my current place could use one. If you sit outside in the evening and turn on the lights you'll soon attract a crowd of your best little friends. Daytime isn't a problem.

Many people over spend on the outdoor area and rarely use it, we tend to use it a great deal because we live on the water. In the summer I may spend half of the day out there. If this one had a better covered area I'd use it much more during the rest of the year too.
ckelly78z
Posts: 8
Joined: Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:51 pm

Re: Outdoor living space/patio recommendations?

Post by ckelly78z »

treesinthewind wrote: Tue Apr 06, 2021 8:45 am
ckelly78z wrote: Mon Apr 05, 2021 8:38 am One thing to consider for your own personal enjoyment in the off season (cold temperatures) is installing a spa/hot tub. We bought a new Hot Springs spa 25 years ago, and still enjoy the same spa every Fall/Winter. We have only had to replace the cover twice, and the pump once...one of the best comfort expenses we have ever bought.
We've been considering doing this, but the description of the maintenance in other boglehead threads has me thinking twice about it. What is the weekly/monthly time commitment for a hot tub?
We honestly only chlorinate/check water once a week, and add whatever chemicals it needs to stabilize (usually not much). I clean the big filter once a month, and replace it yearly, so really not much more than a few minutes a week involved in keeping it nice. I think I have re-stained the outside wood about every other year as well.
Post Reply